Category Archives: Books

Nightmares Are Made Of This

Adults should never underestimate the power of a child’s imagination – from clowns to parental lies about bogeymen or monsters who live under the bed in an effort to get your child to behave – these figments of imagination run riot in tiny minds!  Exploring the topic of parental lying, Singaporean author/illustrator Trivia Goh, has got together and published a collection of local lies commonly heard in Singapore and presented them in a book of gorgeous illustrations and light hearted rhymes.  Nightmares are never far from anybody’s mind during spooky Halloween week, so I caught up with the delightful Trivia to find out more …… 

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Hi! I’m Trivia Goh, a 24-year-old artist, illustrator and designer based in Singapore. I studied at the School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, majoring in Visual  Communications. Currently, I’m working towards my dream of living off my art.

Congratulations on publishing your book, “Nightmares Are Made Of This” – a children’s book for adults, touching upon the topic of parental lying; the lies parents tell their children to get them to behave as desired! Where did you get inspiration from to write this passionate book?

Thank you very much! The inspiration stemmed from the culture here in Singapore, where, every so often you’ll catch wind of a parent telling scary lies to their kids to get them to stop crying, to stop running, to stop talking…it is all very instrumental and the stories they come up with are incredible. (I have to give them that!). Some stories are passed down for generations while others are just made up on the spot to instill that momentary fear. I like my works to be meaningful so I decided to illustrate these dark stories for parents to better see what kind of imagery they are putting into their childrens’ head and henceforth be more mindful of their words.

 

 

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As well as being published author, you are also an accomplished illustrator too. Growing up, were your career aspirations writing or art based or did your dreams follow a different path?

When I was growing up I thought I’d be an artist. But somewhere along the way I got caught up with all the expectations to get a “real” job. So I allowed myself to go down a more commercial path of a designer. But I think I’m back on track now!

Your book contains a collection of local lies that are commonly heard in Singapore, presented with illustrations and light hearted rhymes. What was the lie most used on you as a youngster growing up in Singapore? What’s the funniest, oddest or your favourite “lie” in the book?

The one about the watermelon seeds! My mum used to tell me not to eat watermelon seeds otherwise they’d grow a watermelon in my tummy. I always thought to myself that the seeds are germinating in the tummies of those who ate the seeds. The oddest lie in the book has got to be the one where parents tell their children not to pick their nose because there’s a fanged worm in there and it will bite their finger if they do. It took a while to figure out how the illustration would be like if they do and the whole time I was thinking that is such an odd thing to say!

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Your book though is meant to be educational for adults – to make parents aware and be mindful of their interactions with the young ones and not to under estimate the power of a child’s imagination. Although you are based in Singapore, is your book available to purchase overseas? Do you offer a digital format (eg Kindle) as well as the giant sized book and smaller sized version?

Yes the small sized graphic novel ( 20mmx 80mm) is currently available online on my website, at My Imagination Kingdom (an independent bookstore) and soon it will be up on the shelves of Kinokuniya. I felt the need to get this out there to the world and not just in Singapore. The giant book is making an appearance again at My Imagination Kingdom at a meet the author session and I’m looking to make it available for sale in future.

If you had to write a book in a different genre from “Nightmares Are Made Of This”, what genre would you pick?

I’d pick children fiction and fantasy. Those books are precious precious gems. I once read a children’s picture book about picking stars and I learnt a whole lot more on how to grow as a human being from that book than any adult self-help book I’ve ever read. When we create the impossible things, we inspire people to do the impossible.

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Are you looking at writing other books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

I’m looking at a part 2 for Nightmares Are Made of This, and this time with contribution of parental lies from people all over the world. (I’ll make an announcement on my Facebook page  when this will be in time). For now, I’m focusing on illustrating and I will be compiling my works into little books on a regular basis. I’d like to cover topics that seem very trivial but matter a lot. It is how it is with little things.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I like reading fantasy and fiction. My current favourite is The North Star by Peter H Reynolds. My usual reads include JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you some book/illustration inspiration, which place would you love to venture to & why?

Gruyères, Switzerland! To visit the Giger Museum! H.R Giger, Tim Burton and Edward Gorey are great inspirations I live by.

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When you’re not writing and illustrating, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I like to watch movies. The romantic comedies, fantasy films and animations provide a very good form of momentary escapism and that really brings fresh perspective to things.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Denim shorts and baggy shirt with plain black flats – they go with everything! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yep! I frequent postsecret.com & iwrotethisforyou.me – to feel human.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A blue grey bridesmaid dress. A friend of mine is getting married in November!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. Adds a little edginess!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

My Website : www.trivialities.com.sg

My fb page : https://www.facebook.com/trivialities.sg

Meet the author session event pg:
https://www.facebook.com/events/ 82549393434355 /

My instagram : @trivialities

Thank you Trivia for taking time out to chat to us about your wonderful book and illustrations. A lot of people I know find clowns scary, but for me it’s the humble cow … no particular reason why… so what gives you goosebumps dear readers? Do share your secrets!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Trivia Goh.

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An Interview With Author Anita Dennis

I do like a true life love story that beats all the odds and features a prince! Well, my guest this week, US author Anita Dennis, has a story worth telling for she fell in love and married the professor of her college anthropology class who just happened to be the chief of the Mende tribe in Liberia, West Africa. Apart from coping with racism, Anita had to adapt to experiencing a different culture too. When her husband died, Anita penned a memoir of their time together – “Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl & The African Chief” – travelling around Africa, meeting presidents, sleeping in mud huts…. and I’m so pleased to welcome Anita onto the blog to find out more about her transcontinental life and marriage…image

Hi! I’m Anita. I’m a Christian white woman who grew up on an Ohio farm. In my childhood, I wanted to be a writer, but felt I had nothing to write about. Little did I dream that I’d one day I’d have adventures most people can only imagine. Marrying my anthropology professor took me to remote villages upcountry in Liberia, West Africa, where I was the “chief’s wife.” The year I lived in my husband’s father’s village was the most challenging. I ate elephant meat, faced strange insects, participated in my son’s secret Poro society graduation, and served God as a lay missionary.

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I was lucky enough to read a preview copy, thank you, of your latest book, “Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and The African Chief” – a memoir penned by yourself after your husband died, about your extraordinary life together. It is a memoir full of love, life, hardship and adventure. So when you first met your husband, Dr Ben Dennis, professor of your college Anthropology class what were your first thoughts when you found out he also happened to be chief of the Mende tribe in Liberia?

I first noticed the tribal marks on his cheeks, which gave him a distinctive look. The minute he spoke, I knew he was a foreigner because of his strong accent. I was curious when he told me he was an African. It wasn’t a problem until I fell in love with him, since I couldn’t imagine living in Africa! He reassured me that his life and work were in America. And at that time, he wasn’t thinking of going back. I was crazy in love and believed him.

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Was it easy being accepted into the Mende tribe? How difficult was it to adapt to the African ways as opposed to what you was used to in the USA?

I experienced culture shock during my first trip to Vahun, my husband’s father’s village. In fact, upon our return to Michigan, I wanted to divorce him. I had seen the other side of his life and I couldn’t imagine living in a mud hut. The Mende and Gbandi tribes, on the other hand, were very welcoming. The Mende people told me, “We don’t look at a person’s skin; we look at their heart.” On my first trip to Vahun, I was accepted into the Mende tribe and renamed “Baindu” during a 3-day ceremony. I slept on a traditional mud bed in a conical hut only briefly. We stayed at the commissioner’s mud-block house, which had concrete-plastered walls and a galvanized zinc roof. There we slept in a wooden bed with a Western-style mattress. The relationship among Mende brothers rattled me the most, because I was considered their wife as well! When my brother-in-law said he was going to sleep with me that night, I was shocked. Later, I was extremely relieved and thankful it was a Mende joke!

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As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I loved adventure books as a child because I wanted more than anything to escape the farm and see the big world out there. I now enjoy Christian books that give me encouragement. I love reading the Bible because it keeps me connected to Jesus, my Saviour.

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You also served as a lay missionary whilst in Liberia in the 80s. What changes to the country, if any, did you witness from when you was in the country in the 70s. Do you still visit Liberia?

Liberia experienced tremendous social change from the 70s to the 80s. With the new road over the Kamboi mountain range, the village of Vahun grew as more farm land was cleared and Mendes from Sierra Leone returned. The greatest change came in the military coup of 1980, when the indigenous tribes of Liberia rebelled against Americo-Liberian domination. Ironically, the Free Negroes and freed slaves who returned to Liberia before the Civil War, treated the sixteen tribes living there as they themselves had been treated in America. Because of my husband’s health and his death, I haven’t returned to Liberia since 1984. My sons intend to spread their father’s ashes in his Mende and Gbandi villages.

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Out of all the things you’ve experienced as a wife of a Liberian chief – what experience did you enjoy the most and what was nightmare experience?

I enjoyed the love and hospitality of the people. From the beginning, they welcomed me with open arms. When I suffered with hives, they were extremely concerned about me and worried about what they would tell my parents if anything happened to me.

The most difficult aspect of living in Vahun in 1983-84, was not being in control in a familiar environment. The house in the village we moved into had no kitchen or bathroom at first. We had no electricity or running water. The mosquitoes swarming around our heads as we slept there the first night panicked me. Later on, I could never seem to keep the kerosene refrigerator working. Every time things seemed calm, another challenge arose.

Hypothetically speaking, if Beyond Myself was made into a film, what actors would you pick to be the main characters of yourself and your husband?

That’s a fun question! A number of people have said my story would make a great movie. I think Eddie Murphy would be great for my husband and Julia Roberts with red hair for me – although I’m not as beautiful!

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I live in Florida, the casual place! I wear capris and cute blouses, sandals. I love bright colors and follow “Color Me Beautiful” (from the 1980s) for those colors that look best with my skin and hair. I love earrings that match my blouses. Purses that match my shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have to admit I’m a shopaholic and mall temptations abound! I’m always looking for a blouse that’s one of my favorite colors, or a style or print that’s unique. I usually find something at Macy’s, Penny’s, or New York & Co. I’m 70, but I like a youthful look.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Anything that flatters me. I love to see the new fashions – what’s out there.

Boots or Shoes?

Living in Florida has made me a fashionable sandal woman. I only wear shoes when I go up North.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book

Website:
http://www.anitakdennis.com/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/anitakdennis

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/anitakdennis

Ah, Anita, thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your memories and I wish you all the best with your book. Your book has kept me spellbound this summer and I highly recommend that readers should put it on their “must read” list! For me, having no electricity would be a nightmare – although no doubt I would’ve adapted, a case of having too!  What, dear readers, would you find hard to be without? I’d love to know! So, do tell!

Linda x

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Anita Dennis.

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Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe

This week I’m so excited to be talking to Canadian journalist & foreign correspondent, Heidi Kingstone… about her work, life, shoe passion and her fab book about her encounters when based in Kabul in 2007/2008 – “Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe”.  Hi Heidi…image

Hi!  My name is Heidi, and I’ve been a journalist all my life.  I have finally written my first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, which is about expat life in Kabul, a place known as the ‘Kabubble’. I like to think of it as the Afghan version of the TV series Indian Summers. I spent 18-months living and working there and discovered an amazing world. The country is fantastically beautiful, and life is complex and difficult, a place where so many people have felt drawn in order to help, and Dispatches is about the adrenalin-fuelled excitement of living on the edge of someone else’s war. You don’t have to like politics, be interested in war or even Afghanistan. Dispatches is a series of stories, based fairly accurately on real-life, on things that happened to me or my friends, where you can find answers to questions like: Where can you buy 913 Kalashnikovs? How do you tell a friend her expat love is never coming back?What’s it like to date a mercenary?

Your book, Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe, published by Advance Editions, was launched in May 2015. It is based on your encounters and interviews with idealists, gunrunners, warlords, generals, power-brokers, fashionistas and ordinary women over a period of 4 years from 2007 when you lived and worked in Afghanistan. Described by many to be a travel book written in the style of traditional 19th/20th travel writers like Fielding, Sterne, Morris, Thesiger and Kinglake – and I agree, it is an armchair traveller’s literature delight! What or who inspired you to write your experiences in this way?

As usual, it was a series of events, triggered by my father, a psychiatrist, who suggested I write about daily life in Afghanistan. By this point, the world was suffering from information overload on the military and political front and on the tragedy of women’s lives, but there were still other aspects that I felt hadn’t been covered. Daily life in the ‘Kabubble’ fascinated me and rounded out the picture. As a result, the book grew organically into what it is, which is a series of vignettes based fairly accurately on real life. I wanted to write something atmospheric that gave the reader a sense of what it was like to be in this adrenalin-fuelled world where truth is stranger than fiction. Even though my book is nothing like his, I loved Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, which was about Vietnam during the French Indochina War in the 50s. It was a turbulent and historic period, and the louche expat scene of foreign correspondents, women, drugs and diplomacy was my inspiration. In The Karen Woo Story, you get some sense of that.

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During those years, you have witnessed women as heroines, as victims, as freeloaders, as rivals. The cast of characters in the book include Hasina, the revolutionary in Gucci sunglasses; and Ariana, who was desperate to leave Kabul and had high hopes that Brian could help her! I loved meeting these people via your book and didn’t envy your role at times (especially in Ariana’s case). Which person or incident proved most challenging or disturbed you the most?

It’s a tough call, but on balance I would say, Hasina, the girl with Gucci glasses. I liked her from the moment I met her, and she never ceased to impress me. I loved her unbound spirit and her intelligence, her openness, fearlessness, passion and honesty, her love of life and her commitment to making her country a better place, particularly for women. Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, and women lead tough lives and challenging the system is a Herculean task. But she confounded all the stereotypes we have of Afghan women or certainly the view I had that all women were meek and mild and victimised. I loved the stories Hasina would share with me about her family and experiences, she opened a window onto another Afghanistan. She is part of that exciting new generation of Afghans who are educated, modern and worldly, who are impressive people, and would be wherever they were. I was sorry to lose touch with her, and I think of her often, especially the times we would sit at Flower Street Cafe together drinking coffee, which we both loved. We also talked under the pomegranate tree in the garden of the house I rented about life and love and curtains, and, of course, her Gucci glasses.

One reviewer said “only Heidi would wander around Kabul in stilettos and lip-gloss”. I like your style but I’m sure it was a case of head covering and baggy clothes for most of the time. Despite the hardships, rules and nature of Afghanistan – what are your fondest memories of the place?

That was a quote from my brilliant friend Kate Fox, who wrote Watching the English, and she’s right. I did wear baggy clothes and cover my head, wear lip-gloss and stilettos. Another friend nicknamed me Heidi High Heels because of my steely determination to wear nice shoes despite the mud and potholes and the virtually impossible task of walking in anything but flat, sturdy shoes. I have so many fantastic memories, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book, to preserve and share them. Like most women, I covered my head, but the scarf was almost always loosely wrapped, and luckily there were beautiful scarves made by Afghan women, which I still have and cherish. I went to the north of the country and saw women, who were involved in a silk project, do everything from nurturing the worms to spinning the silk.

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I was blown away by how beautiful Afghanistan is, it is incredible, and one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen was Lake Band-e-Amir, the blue colour of the water, the jagged landscape, and walking through the ice-cold water which froze my bare feet. Particularly in the spring and summer, I would love to hear the sound of the ice cream man as he rang the bell and pushed his cart through the streets. And just like everywhere else, little kids would run out to buy ice lollies. I also loved to see the balloon sellers walking the streets. On one of the many times I went to Chicken Street, the main shopping drag in the capital, I sat with a carpet seller, who brought out a jar of raisins and nuts that had been marinated in a jar. He dug a spoon into the mixture and fed me a mouthful, it was delicious, unexpected, and I have to say, a little unnerving.

You have written for Britain’s leading publications covering assignments to do with disease & poverty from Mali to Sierra Leone; life in Darfur; and water wars between Palestine and Israel. You have written extensively about your travels in Iraq & Kurdistan, and you were commissioned by Canada’s National Post to write a 4 post series on the “Worst Places In The World”. Out of all the places you’ve visited, where was the worst place? And what place really surprised you and was better/ nicer than you had previously thought?

I only spent a few days in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it was magnificent. They say about the country that God gave it everything, diamonds, beauty, water, natural resources and more, but never peace.I fell in love with African masks in Rwanda and the DRC. DRC has a long and bloody history, yet it is such a beautiful country, with so much potential, which always seems to be the case – beauty and brutality. I remember wanting to photograph a woman who balanced a plastic container of odd shoes on her head. Her face had a hardness to it, and she turned away, making it clear she wanted me to stop. I understood her reaction, I would feel the same. Life is hard in places like Goma, and people are ingenious in finding ways to survive. I never forget how lucky I am to live in the UK and come from Canada. Certainly, our countries are far from perfect, but easier in terms of health care, education, standard of living, freedom, equality, tolerance – and peace and security.

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Growing up had you always had in mind to be a journalist/author/foreign correspondent or did you fantasise about being somebody completely different?

I started off wanting to be an archeologist as I have always been fascinated by different people and far off lands. Being a journalist combined my passion for telling stories about people and places, but it happened by pure serendipity. I went to see the editor of a magazine in Toronto about something totally unrelated and she asked me to write an article – on accessories – and I knew from the first word I wrote that I had found what I wanted to do. Over time, my career moved in the direction I had hoped it would.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

So many! Except for science fiction of which I am not a fan, I have fairly catholic tastes. I love novels because you can just get lost in them, but also read a lot of non-fiction. In both Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I have finished the books wanting more and feeling as if I had made new friends. In a Suitable Boy I felt like I could just knock on the door of one of those houses and join in the with family. That was the effect I wanted with Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, that when you read it, you would feel as if you were living those experiences. I have been going through a long Indian writers phase, the books are incredibly powerful. It started with Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and subsequently Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. They are tragic, profound, and beautiful, and show how corrupt and evil people and governments can be.I also read a lot of books about Afghanistan – some of my favourites have been Frank Ledwidge’s Losing Small Wars, Rodric Braithwaite’s Afghansty and Sherard Cowper-Coles Cables from Kabul. I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein too. I can thank my mother who is excellent at recommending books for me to read.

Although you’ve been to quite a few places in the world – what place/country holds the top position on your bucket list now as the place you most would like to visit, either for work or pleasure? What has been your favourite destination visited so far?

I would hop on a plane to travel just about anywhere. I have always wanted to go to Antartica. I find its serene beauty compelling – and I love penguins. And the South Pacific, inspired by Paul Gaugin’s paintings. When I was growing up I always wanted to visit Burkino Faso, and attend the Ouagadougou film festival. Oscar Niemeyer is one of my favourite architects so Brasilia is on my list, too. Every time I go to a new country, I think I need to move there immediately. But Africa as a continent is where my heart is and southern Africa in particular. Out in the bush in Botswana, Namibia or South Africa would come top of my list. Being immersed in the landscape and watching the animals makes me happy and is possibly where I am most at peace. I’m not a very spiritual person but I feel something profound when I am there. My first trip was a remarkable five-day bush walk with my then boyfriend, who was South African, through the Umfolozi, led by Ian Player. He was a great conservationist who helped save the white rhino, and his trekker Mqubo. 

What are your 5 beauty, fashion or footwear essentials that you always pack with you from the UK when travelling to your assignments?

Flip flops are an essential, I never go anywhere without them. I am addicted to Havaianas. A pair of sunglasses because you never know when you are going to need to add that air of mystery or hide behind shades. They are always glamorous – and useful. I have learned to travel with jeans just in case the weather suddenly shifted. You can dress they up or down. I also bought a silk sleeping bag case in Vietnam that rolls up into a small ball. It’s light and came in very handy when I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Either a pashmina or large cotton scarf. 

One reviewer quoted that you had “an eye for beauty and fashion in the most unlikely places”. In your travels, what has surprised you most in beauty and fashion terms when compared to the UK/Canada?

In India, it is of course the colours, the jewellery and the architecture, which are extraordinary. The legendary editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, said ‘pink is the navy blue of India’, and when you are there your eyes drown in colour and you get lost in the vibrancy and the mixture of patterns that surround you….and there is no black. In southern Africa, it’s just the opposite. The earth tones calm me. I love the mud cloths and colours that blend into the landscape, and the geometric designs. 

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I absolutely love the fashion this year, and amongst other things I am addicted to are jumpsuits – I have three – one in denim by Diesel, which I think is quite sexy as it’s fitted, a silk one by Joie that I bought in Dubai that is casual and elegant, and a more sophisticated one also by Joie, which is more grown up and good for day or evening. This winter I lived in Stuart Weiztman’s over the knee suede boots and McQueen’s high heeled ankle boots. My nude colour Louboutins see me through just about everything.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love mixing and matching from high-end to high street, which means that there are endless and enormous opportunities! I seem to go in phases and I love Joie, they seem to cut for my shape, which makes all the difference. There are a couple of shops locally that I go to, and then of course Selfridge’s as it’s sadly not too far from where I live. And so many more!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Every day I make the same vow: No more shopping. But it doesn’t last, and London is possibly the best place in the world to shop, good if you have discipline, not so good if you are a shopaholic. I bought a pair of mukluks a few years ago back in Toronto to wear in the winter and navigate the ice and snow. When I put them on I remember the sensation of such cosiness and luxury, I never realised shoes could be comfortable! There was a pair of black shoes that I saw a few times on celebrities in various magazines this season. They had an elegant high heel, a pointy toe, and three sexy straps that wrapped around the foot and ankle, and I absolutely loved them. As I was determined, with dubious success, to curtail my footwear intake I didn’t seek them out but I did make a mental pact with myself: If I ever saw them I would buy them. Like so many promises that we make to ourselves, it was hardly written In stone. So there I was in Vienna in June, taking in the sites between stops for Sacher Torte, Wiener Schnitzel and coffee with whipped cream, when I decided I needed some respite and I detoured into a side street near the famous Viennese landmark, St Stephen’s cathedral, where lo and behold there was a pretty unprepossessing shoe shop. With temperatures soaring above 30C degrees, and unable to resist temptation, I opened the shop door to a blast of cool air, and there, displayed on a plinth right in front of me, were the Gianvito Rossi shoes that I had lusted after. And, of course, not someone to break a promise, even if it was to myself, I tried them on. They were a perfect fit, possibly even comfortable, more fabulous in real life than on the pages of a glossy magazine, and in a moment Cinderella transformed into a princess.

Boots or Shoes? 

As I look in my cupboard and see all the boots and shoes that I love, it’s a tough choice. Boots can be incredibly sexy but if I had to choose I think it would have to be shoes. I’m a sucker for stilettos. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

www.HeidiKingstone.com

my Facebook page is Heidi Kingstone

Twitter @superlotuslane

instagram @superlotuslane

Thanks Heidi and I so love those new Gianvito Rossi shoes! Don’t know if I’d brave heels along pot holed streets but I certainly would rock the sunglasses and lipgloss look! Readers, where’s the strangest/unusual place you’ve worn heels? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  Heidi Kingstone; Mina Sharif 

 

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An Interview With Shannon Kyle – Ghostwriter

My guest this week is a lady you probably have not heard of and yet you may have read her books or heard of the books she’s ghostwritten. Out of the 10 books she’s ghostwritten, 4 have been Sunday Times bestsellers and her first book, “Forever In My Heart” by Jade Goody, sold over 100,ooo copies and was No 1 bestseller in 2009.  I caught up with Shannon Kyle recently to discover what it is like to be a ghostwriter ….Hi Shannon and welcome….image

Lovely to meet you. I am Shannon Kyle, a ghostwriter and journalist.

To date, you have ghostwritten 10 books, including 4 Sunday Times bestsellers for both celebrities and ordinary people with extraordinary stories. That is quite an achievement! What inspired you to become a ghostwriter?

I fell into it by accident. I had worked as a journalist for many years on the tabloids and women’s weekly magazines and was asked to write Jade Goody’s last autobiography, Forever in My Heart. At first Harper Collins were not altogether convinced I should as I’d never written a book before, but thankfully they decided to give me a whirl.

You are also a talented freelance journalist writing true life stories for publications such as Take A Break, Prima, Woman’s Own, The Guardian, The Mirror, Daily Express and Sunday People for over 15 years. Growing up, what were your career ambitions? Did they resemble your careers as a journalist and ghostwriter or did you want to be something totally different?

When I was 15, I won a competition in a local newspaper, The Medway Messenger, to write a ‘letter to the future’ which was then buried in a time capsule under a building site, I can’t actually recall where now! The prize was to have the letter printed, £50 and a trip in a helicopter over the building site. I was so thrilled to read my words in print  I decided I’d wanted to be a journalist one day.

As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

As a child I loved reading autobiographies, like Roald Dahl’s Boy-Tales of Childhood and Going Solo, and Anne Frank’s diaries of course. At the time I loved reading ‘true stories’ as I knew events really happened. Today I love reading anything and everything. Recently I have finished Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Olafsdóttir. It’s a comic-noir novel set in Iceland I bought while on a short holiday there and it’s beautifully written and so funny. I’ve also loved Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, a novel so incredible it just took my breath away. The last non-fiction book I read is Confessions of a Ghostwriter by Andrew Crofts, a very enjoyable take on the job of ghosting from one of the best in the business, that was insightful!

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Your first book as a ghostwriter was “Forever In My Heart” by Jade Goody that sold over 100,000 copies and was No1 bestseller in 2009. A fantastic start to your “ghostwriting” career but it must have been quite an emotional rollercoaster. What were the highlights and lowlights whilst working on the book alongside Jade and her family?

My own father died of bowel cancer (within two weeks of being diagnosed) just five months before I was asked to write this book. Cancer and grief were very much at the forefront of my mind so I was in a bit of a daze during the writing of Forever in My Heart. The absolute cruelty and unfairness of life was bought up so close, as Jade was only 27 and leaving two little boys behind who were her world. I felt it was a privilege to write this book and was under pressure too as it had to be written within three weeks! I had little time even to eat or sleep. What I took away was the love that surrounded her from her family and friends, and the incredible humour they all kept, including Jade, right till the end. A general low light was the senselessness of it all really. Dying while young is a very cruel senseless business, although through doing it publicly Jade highlighted cervical cancer and by doing this she saved many lives. Young women who wouldn’t have got tested otherwise came forward and had it done. She should also be remembered for that.

Your latest ghostwritten book, “The Race To Truth” by Emma O’Reilly was nominated for the Irish Sports Book Of The Year award 2014. Congratulations! When ghostwriting, do you have a hunch as to what makes a best seller?

Thank you! I don’t think anyone, even publishers know what will definitely make a best seller. One celebrity memoir I wrote was the life story a household name and garnered huge publicity and looked as if it would be a sure thing, but it didn’t sell particularly well. Then I’ve written a memoir of a girl who grew up in a modern day gypsy family and it reached number four on the Sunday Times bestseller list.. it’s so hard to tell. However I do trust my instincts on what makes a good story, I think it’s important to have a nose for that in this job!

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Have you ever had ambitions to write and publish your own book under your own name as author? If so, what book genre would you pick?

To date I have made two attempts to write a novel. The first one almost got bought by a big publisher but they pulled out at the last minute. I hope to one day. I hope to write something fictional for the women’s consumer market which is from the heart.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could pick to ‘ghostwrite’ the life story of any historical figure, who would you pick and why?

She isn’t historical yet, but I would love to do Yoko Ono’s autobiography. Being a huge Beatles fan I’d love to have done Linda McCartney’s book too, I identify with her as I’ve been a single mother living in a big city working in media, like she did in New York before she married Paul. I’d also love to interview Queen Elizabeth the First, and of course Anne Frank too.

What, in your opinion, are the best bits of being a ghostwriter? And, dare I say it, the downside?

Without a doubt the best bits is being able to get close to someone and ask them almost any question. I am always discreet and my authors need to be able to trust me. It’s a real privilege to hear people’s first hand stories. Being part of the process of writing a book from that first opening line to the end and seeing it in shops is also very rewarding.
The downside is editing and never quite knowing when the final manuscript is finally finished.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love Levis and Goldsign jeans. The latter are an American brand and rather pricey so I make them last but they’re so flattering and comfortable. I’ve often got a pair of Converse on, my favourite ones are all white ones bought in a vintage shop. When I am writing I usually wear anything comfortable, even jogging bottoms as I try and go out for a run every day. If I am going out, I have a few Fever of London dresses I absolutely love, but that’s only on a special occasion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

eBay is the place for bargains. I used to like Brandalley.com too, but try not to get tempted. ASOS is always good and my daughter quite often gets me to look on there for clothes for her. I have a favourite vintage shop in Camden, near where I live, it’s called The Thrift Shop. It’s tiny but a treasure trove of cool things.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve been keeping an eye on eBay for a pair of Chanel sunglasses. I’m hoping for a proper pair a la Audrey Hepburn.

Boots or Shoes? 

I’ve been after a pair of good black leather over the knee high boots for a while, but I’ve yet to find the perfect pair. I’ve always been a fan of long black boots, they’re great in the winter time when it rains and you can wear them with jeans or skirts.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you

www.shannonkyle.co.uk
www.facebook.com/shannonkylejournalist

Thank you Shannon for sharing with us just a little of your ghostwriting world and I hope you eventually get that novel of yours published! I think it must be interesting to ghostwrite the autobiography of a historical figure like Nell Gwyn or as you say, Shannon, Elizabeth I …. dear reader, which historical figure would you pick to shadow? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Header Pic – published with kind permission from Shannon Kyle; Book Photos – Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Yasmin Boland – Cosmic Person

I’m heading Down Under this week for a truly cosmic interview with the lovely Oz cosmic person Yasmin Boland. Her website, www.moonology.com ,is one of the most popular astrology sites in Australia. She has astrology and New Age columns in publications such as the Sunday Telegraph; as well as being an author of several books about astrology plus she has written a couple of novels too.  Astrology fascinates alot of people and being a nosy Gemini myself (actually I’m on the cusp of Taurus/Gemini) I couldn’t wait to find out about Yasmin’s passion that has turned into her profession…and her ballet flats passion too… Hi Yasmin ….image

Hi! I’m Yasmin Boland, cosmic person!

You are an author, journalist and astrologer. When did you realise that your passion for astrology could be turned into your profession?

It happened very slowly. In my role as a journalist, I interviewed Jonathan Cainer who – after learning of my love of astrology – let me to do some writing for him on his site. After a few years of that, it so happened Jonathan was offered a contract with then-new Closer magazine in the UK. He couldn’t do it because of contracts elsewhere so – fatefully – he handed it over to me… That was in 2002, and it was the first professional column I wrote. Back then it paid something that’s now unthinkable-a-week (I won’t go into details but it was a LOT – it was before the recession bit!) It was actually enough for me to live on, especially as back then, I was single and living off the smell of an oily rag! So I let other work straight journalism commitments slip away to focus on that first astro column, and then another followed, and another and another… Then my site www.moonology.com and books and …

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How old were you when you started to get interested in astrology? Did you guess people’s star signs correctly just by observing their traits? (I’m Gemini, Aquarius moon & Libra rising – if you haven’t already guessed!)

I was interested when I was at school and in fact, some of my friends mentioned at my wedding about how I used to go around with an astrology book someone had given me and tell them all about their star signs. At Uni I met an astrologer who became a friend and at one point, gave me all her old astrology books after doing a feng shui clear-out – after that I became obsessed! As for guessing peoples’ sign, I do often guess them when I meet them, but I think that when it happens, it’s more clairvoyance than astrology. The thing is, you have to know someone quite well to see their Star sign – when you first meet someone, what you usually encounter is their Rising Sign. The Rising Sign is the ‘mask’ that people wear, so you see that before you see their Star sign, which is the real them!

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Your website is one of the most popular astrology sites in Australia. I like the idea of the daily horoscopes adjusted to take in account the different time zones around the world, so that if you are in the USA , for example, you can actually read Monday’s stars on a Monday. What is the most popular feature or service on your website?

It’s between the Daily and Weekly Stars, the daily Moon Meditations and a little thing called the Nirvana Cards – here

Apart from having astrology columns in publications such as the Sunday Telegraph, Cleo and New Idea, Spirit and Destiny and Chat It’s Fate; plus writing the daily Stars for Yahoo! Australia and New Zealand; you have also appeared commenting on astrology on Australian TV and radio. What are the most popular/most requested astrology topics you’ve spoken about?

I give talks about The New Moon and the Law of Attraction – always fun – and one about Medusa and the Fixed Star Algol… Also end of year wrap ups and New Year ones too.

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You are an author too (such a busy bee!) of several books – two novels, a non fiction and a series of astrology based books published in UK, Australia and India and distributed internationally. Do you find writing therapeutic? What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I live to write, basically. I am one of those people who, if I had to choose what to take with my on a desert island, would take a pen and paper (though I might choose my iPhone these days – can still write on it and I have a little Blackberry-like add-on keyboard for it, so I could go even faster!) My favourite genre to read is spiritual or autobiographical – Deepak Chopra’s Unconditional Life and Doreen Virtue’s The Lightworker’s Way really moved me. Right now I am reading Arianna Huffington’s Thrive and the Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, and really enjoying both. I also love reading easy business books like The Curve by Nicholas Lovell, which is about working on the internet, which I do a lot of. Would love any more recommendations. Basically I am into non-fiction so it’s amazing I wrote two novels!

You were born in Germany of Maltese/English heritage and grew up in Tasmania before living and working in Sydney, London and Paris. How did you cope moving from a relatively quiet, rural place as Tasmania to 3 of the world’s most bustling cities? What were the main differences for you?

When I lived in Tassie, I would sit at the port and watch the big ships leaving for the “mainland” and plot and scheme and dream about how to make my own exit! I love Tassie – it’s a really beautiful and amazing place, but I always wanted to live in a big city. Always. My parents are from Europe so we travelled the world every year, to see their families, so I grew up with a world view, even living in Tassie.

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Hypothetically speaking, if you were given the chance to visit/work in any location in the world, what destination would be number one on your list and why?

Anywhere very hot and sunny with a iPhone connection, a swimming pool, fresh food and comfy place for my family and I to sleep! I’m thinking either a tropical island or maybe LA? 🙂 But I also truly love working in London. I find it so inspiring as a city, both in terms of the media there and also just talking to people and see the shows, exhibitions etc. And I love working in Bondi in Sydney as well, going to cafes with my netbook and writing away with a cafe latte. Right now I am in Paris and it’s also lovely! Have done a lot of work today and am about to go out for a walk to enjoy the place.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Sorry but mainly black… I know it’s not meant to be a good thing – spiritual people seem to frown on it – but I feel most comfy in it…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Probably ASOS – I love their filters and they always have something new. I also love to flick through Net-a-Porter. I’m very mainstream, I guess! I like really work-a-day clothes and often buy two or three of something at a time, if I like it. Right now I am going through a black dress with leggings and boots phase. Though I have a friend who sells jewellery so I do jazz things up with earrings or a necklace!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Well right now in Paris I have only got two pairs of boots with me – ankle boots and some Chelsea boots – but it’s quite warm and am wishing I had some flats I could wear without socks. So am thinking they are next on my list. I actually want to buy a pair of black Chanel ballet flats – I can’t help it, I just want a pair. Actually two pairs. One in black and one is some kind of very pale brown trans-seasonal fabric (have seen a pair like this but not as yet ‘invested’, much to hubby’s relief I am sure!)

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots every day in winter and ballet flats in summer… I wore thongs (flip flops) every single day while pregnant and for about five years after my son was born. He is now 8. It horrified my French husband’s family, I am sure, but I just couldn’t shake the habit. I had them in all kids of colours. Finally, at some point, I started to realise it was outrageous to wear thongs non-stop and got some proper shoes. I started with some flat espadrilles from France in various colours, and slowly progressed to more and more civilised shoes, and as I say, the dream is some Chanel flats!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow you and your words of wisdom.

www.moonology.com
twitter.com/yasminboland
facebook.com/yasminboland
facebook.com/yasminbolandsmoonology

Thanks for sharing your cosmic world with us Yasmin and those Chanel flats sound a real good investment – I hope you manage to get a pair soon.  I wonder if fashion choices are governed by horoscopes too – being a Gemini, the ying & yang of the zodiac my fashion choices are either jeans, tee & leather jacket OR dressy dress, stockings etc – one extreme to the other!  Do you think your fashion/wardrobe choices reflect your sun sign in a fun way? Do let me know what you think!!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Yasmin Boland. 

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An Interview With Author P J Whiteley

If you’re looking for summer reading ideas, then perhaps “Close of Play” by PJ Whiteley should be added to your list.  This lovely gentle, romantic novel portrays rural England to a T – cricket, church, pubs and walkers – and unusually it is a romance written from a male point of view to boot! I loved the novel and I could picture the characters clearly in my mind as they remind me of similar characters I’ve come across in life! I was lucky enough to interview the author himself recently … Hi Philip, welcome to the blog….image

Hi, I’m Philip. I am a full-time writer: author, ghostwriter and journalist. I’ve written or co-authored eight non-fiction business books, the first in 2002. I’m fascinated by people’s beliefs, and idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities – how we come to view the world the way we do. Close of Play is my first novel, and it’s a romantic comedy.

Although you have other non – fiction books written under your name (Philip Whiteley) principally about management, you have just written your first novel, Close Of Play, under the name of P J Whiteley. It is a lovely romantic novel (I was lucky enough to read a preview copy :)) portraying rural England, cricket, church, pubs and walkers … all the characters are utterly believable and it’s refreshing to read a romance book written from a male point of view…So where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

Thank you so much for reading it, and I’m glad you enjoyed the experience! The way it came to be written was through a very long evolution. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s beliefs – whether you go to church; which political party you vote for and why, etc. I wanted to explore these ideas by putting together two Christian individuals having doubts and troubles in middle years. He’s the better sort of Tory, she’s the better sort of left-winger. So they have differences. Originally, the romance was going to be the supporting role, and the faith issues dominant. But it was a bit too ambitious for me, and lacking in direction and narrative strength. So I turned it around to make the relationship central, and to introduce a bit of humour. Some passages were written 17 years ago, and were originally parts of different chapters, long discarded!

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Your boyhood ambition was to represent Yorkshire Cricket Club, and although you have now retired from amateur cricket you still play five a side football. Close of Play is the first in a planned series of sports-themed novels that also encompass human emotions such as love, loss, hope, life’s risks etc. What sports are you hoping to cover? What’s the next idea on the list?

My next idea is to take six Leeds United fans, including two brothers, on a pub tour of Belgium in August 2014. The idea came to me when my wife and I stayed in Bruges last year. As well as enjoying themselves, they’re going to visit the grave of the great-granddad of the two brothers near Ieper for the centenary of the Great War. There will be men and women, and different ages. Because the team’s glory years were in the 1970s, the youngsters are sometimes jealous of the older ones. And yes, there will be some romance. But I’m not saying any more because it’s supposed to come as a surprise. As with all ‘setting off on a journey’ sagas, the back stories emerge slowly and the characters learn things about themselves on the way. I’ve written nearly 20,000 words and I’m pleased with it so far. Working title is Marching On Together.

As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

Up to the age of around 14 I read very boyish books: the Adventure series by Willard Price – very strong on environmental protection and beautifully written. I enjoyed the Silver Sword, and B Flight – both wartime dramas; occasionally a detective book like Hound of the Baskervilles. Probably my favourite books were the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge because they were so funny. I was never really captured by fantasy or sci-fi. Then in my teens it was mostly sport before moving on to grown-up novels. Nowadays, I don’t select books by genre. I like romances and rom-coms; some historical fiction and thrillers, and contemporary fiction generally. I’m a huge fan of magical realism and Spanish-language literature generally.

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If you were able to visit any place in the world to help give inspiration for a new novel, where would you choose?

Santiago de Chile: a fascinating place in a most beautiful country. I lived there for a few months in 1991 and I want to base my third novel, prequel to the second, in Chile. It would actually be set back in April 1991, when a Chilean football club won the South American trophy for the only time. The party that followed was quite something! But I’d want to go back for a visit to pick up on the lingo and history again.

As much as you like writing novels & business books, is there any genre you would like to dabble in that you haven’t yet tried?

Well, I’ve always done a lot of journalism, and an idea for a non-fiction book that I would like to consider – though the research budget might be beyond me – would be to explore some of the big stories that don’t get picked up by mainstream newspapers or websites. Some vested interest groups work hard to suppress media stories and we don’t really have a free press. I’ve come across this in my ghostwriting work and it’s quite a scandal.

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Hypothetically speaking, if Close of Play was made into a film, what actors would you pick to be the main characters of Brian (Colin), Elizabeth and the vicar, Godfrey?

That’s easy: Bob Daws was always in mind to be Colin, and by a weird coincidence – or kismet – he’s now a friend of mine through the Ampthill Literary Festival, and is giving a read-through at my launch! I think Samantha Bond to play Elizabeth. Probably the best actor for Godfrey is Timothy Spall, but I guess he’s too big a star for a fairly minor role, so his understudy, perhaps! …

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I work from home, so often just tee-shirt and jeans, but I like to get suited up for a meeting in London. Single-breasted, Mod style preferably.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Bookshops, mostly! Waterstones.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

New skinny jeans.

Boots or Shoes? 

I can honestly say this is the first time in 12 years as an author that I’ve been asked this question! Doesn’t come up in management mags. Shoes, I guess, but I am a massive fan of mid-60s music so I just may splash out one day on Cuban heels to look like Bob Dylan or Pete Townshend circa 1965 (the best year ever for popular music).

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your novels.

Twitter: @Felipewh
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philip.whiteley.96

Blog: https://felipewh.wordpress.com/

Added treat:  Here’s the YouTube video of TV actors Robert Daws and Amy Robbins ( a real-life married couple) reading from Chapter 11 of Close of Play, called ‘Clumsy Angel’.  The YouTube video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPlkephSMqM

Thank you very much for chatting about your book and life – I wish you great success with this and future novels.  Philip’s book is on promotion at the moment in WH Smith Travel until 3rd June 2015 – so don’t forget to grab a copy for some sweet summertime reading.  When you’ve read it, let me know what you thought of the book – did you enjoy it as much as I did?  I really hope so!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Natalie Creative. Kind permission to publish video/photos given by P J Whiteley.

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Talking About Viva Voluptuous

Lately there has been an awful lot in the press and media about “plus sized” women and their fashion dilemmas as well as a look at the other end of the spectrum, the size zero model.  Whilst the debate continues, it’s refreshing to find  a fab novel about some plus sized women who are basically having a good time. The message it brings is about self –  acceptance for your body size (fat or thin) and not being afraid to show the world who you are.  It is definitely a book to put on your summer reading list! Without further ado, come and meet lovely author Sarah..image

Hi! I’m Sarah Clark, and I’m a freelance beauty, health and lifestyle writer with a penchant for writing books. I’m also plus sized – or in other words, fat. I live in Suffolk with my husband, Andy, and when I’m not writing, I’m quite often to be found passing the time of day on Twitter or Facebook. Oops.

Your 2nd book, “Viva Voluptuous”, is a novel about plus sized women who are basically having a good time – there’s a bit of rejection & heartache, a bit of sex, a lot of wine, a few flash mobs, the odd night out dressed up in burlesque gear at a gay bar in Brighton! The characters are real and engaging, the storyline is lighthearted whilst still covering some contemporary issues. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

The inspiration came from my life, the lives of my friends and from a conversation I had with a friend online a few years ago about the way fat women were represented in the media as miserable slobs who rarely did anything else other than eat, were a bit thick, couldn’t get boyfriends and led really quite sad and pathetic lives. That didn’t sound like me! I said that I wished there was a fat super heroine who could sweep in and change the world. There wasn’t one – so I invented Ellie.

This story must have been a rollercoaster to write with its fun parts and its emotionally draining parts – one reviewer has said that “this book will resonate with those who ever felt the need to diet in order to date, to get that job, or to fit in in general”.Which parts of the book did you find most challenging to write and which parts have you enjoyed writing about the most?

I found some of the more emotional parts draining as I drew on experiences of myself and other women I knew who had been struggling with body image and eating disorders for years. I was very clear that I didn’t want the book to be a pity party for obesity, but at the same time I felt it would have been unrealistic to portray the life of a fat woman as being free from any kind of issues; that’s just not the case in the world we live in. There’s so much pressure on women to look and be perfect that if you’ve made a decision not to follow the rules, you’re going to get slated (look at Tess Holliday for example). It was great fun writing flash mob scenes, and parts of the book where Ellie and the girls were really having a good time. I loved imagining the festivals and celeb interviews, and the sex scenes were fun to write too! I actually wrote the book in 2012 when all the 50 shades of Grey hype was going a bit mad, and I wanted to make my sexy scenes more realistic, so I tried to write them as it is sometimes. You know how it is – you do things that don’t really work and just make you giggle, you feel a bit daft, you forget where you put the condoms in the heat of the moment, that sort of thing. They were fun to do, though.

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You are a freelance writer, editor and blogger too – in fact your first book, “Gorgeously Full Fat” was based on autobiographical blog posts and anecdotes. Did you enjoy writing stories as a child?

I really did, yes, and I was always doing it until I got to my teens when it wasn’t really cool to sit in your bedroom with a second hand typewriter making up stories.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in writing or did you have other ambitions as a child?

I had a few ambitions job wise when I was younger; I wanted to be a surgeon because I was obsessed with the body and how it worked, then by secondary school I wanted to be either a fashion designer, writer or a lawyer. I actually used to produce a class magazine called ‘Girl’s Own’ when I was in junior school. I gave up wanting to be a surgeon when I realised that I didn’t like the sight of blood. I spent a while thinking maybe law would work for me, working in the court service and Trading Standards, and even went as far as to do an ILEX Paralegal Qualification. But in 2000 I started working as a writer for a beauty magazine, after spending time writing endless articles for start up websites when everyone thought having a website made you rich – and I was hooked. Now I write about health and beauty, feeding my obsession with the body and all its functions, and about law on the odd occasion, which covers the legal aspect. I also write about granite, driveways and paving, sometimes, which never really fitted into my plan! Never quite got to grips with fashion writing though.

Have you got plans to write other novels or books?

Yes, I’d love to do a sequel to Viva Voluptuous if I can find a publisher, and I have countless other book ideas but I never seem to get around to them!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I love a bit of women’s fiction, and especially enjoy anything by Rowan Coleman, Lindsey Kelk and JoJo Moyes. My favourite book of all time is probably Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier. I wish I’d written that book! I’ve also started getting more into thrillers; I like the supernatural ones and have recently read Biblical by Christopher Galt, and The Three by Sarah Lotz. I also have a personal development book obsession. I bought e-Cubed by Pam Grout and I now have to work out how to make the universe bend in my favour…

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I love your cheeky book cover! Who came up with the idea?

Me! I chose the cover from a stock photo website and the publisher liked it so we went with it. I wanted something that not only reflected the books and the story, but would also attract attention…

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I live in leggings because I work from home and I’m just way too lazy to dress up. I like wearing unusual tops and last year it was all about finding loud, bright skater dresses to wear over the top. I wear boots in winter, and in summer I’d love to say I wear something designer and elegant but I generally wear flats unless I’m at a posh do. I have one very old pair of Jimmy Choo sandals but they only get taken out of their box for weddings and parties…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love the Joe Brown’s range from Simply Be, and I’m also buying more from places like ASOS Curve and Pink Clove these days. I buy most of my clothes online as I’m a size 22 and apparently don’t exist on the high street!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Oooh tricky one. I want to find a perfect pair of jeans; but don’t we all? I’ve got a posh wedding to go to in May so I’ll soon be scouring online to see if I can find something that looks elegant and not frumpy in my size. I actually got my own wedding outfit from Simply Be in 2013, because unless I wanted to pay the price of a deposit on a small house to have a dress made, or take a chance on a Chinese sweatshop, there really were very few options for me. I’d LOVE to design a plus size fashion range but I wouldn’t know where to start.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots in winter as they look good with leggings. Shoes in the the summer…depends on my mood really,

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your novels.

Gorgeously Full Fat: http://www.gorgeouslyfullfat.com/ https://www.facebook.com/GorgeouslyFullFat https://twitter.com/GorgeousFullFat
The Word Boutique (copywriting) http://www.thewordboutique.org
My books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Clark/e/B00EQ1JBLI

Thanks for speaking to us today Sarah – I really enjoyed reading about Ellie – it was a refreshing and fun read.  Viva Voluptuous – got your copy yet readers?

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Sarah Clark.

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Talking About Recipes For Recovery

For those with eating disorders things like grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with others, all present huge challenges; and yet,  healthy and balanced meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life.  An important part of the recovery process is learning how to cook and “Recipes For Recovery” was created to do just that as well as raising money for BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity.  I spoke to Francesca Baker, the creator of the book, to find out more…

Hi Francesca and welcome – please introduce yourself 🙂image

Ah the question who am I? Without getting into an existential crisis of identity, I’m Francesca, and I work in advertising and journalism, and my passions are words, music, creativity and wellness. I always have a project on the go related to one of these areas – and Recipes For Recovery is one of those.

Recipes For Recovery is a book to help support people in recovery from eating disorders as well as hoping to get the message across that everything in moderation is OK and necessary in a healthy and balanced diet, and that meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life. What gave you the inspiration to start the project?

I have suffered from an eating disorder from a number of years, and I think that a huge part of recovery is learning how to love food again, and cook yourself nutritious meals. It’s important also to realise that food can be fun and meals can be social events – the focus does not always have to be on fuel, although of course that is an important lesson to accept. Often what is needed is guidance and permission, and I hope that this book helps offer that support. Conversations and experiences with therapists, professionals and those suffering and recovering from the illnesses, have taught me that having a connection with food again is a step on the path to a normal relationship with food.

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People with eating disorders don’t necessarily like or dislike food per se – they can often be food obsessed, might fear it, might want to avoid it because of weight issues etc. For some grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with other people are difficult challenges. Learning to cook is an important part of recovery as those obstacles slowly get conquered. Bearing those issues in mind, what sort of recipes are most suitable for this sort of recovery?

Many people with eating disorders might have a limited repertoire of meals or food that they feel ‘safe’ eating, and the aim of the book is to widen the options available, giving suggestions in a simple and safe format. The book provides recipe ideas that are balanced and include all the food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vegetables – to ensure that the nutritional and physical aspects of recovery are addressed. It’s not rocket science, and so things like chilli, paella, salmon pasta, and fish pie are all included. Many of the recipes can be cooked for one, which is important as often people with eating disorders fear that it is not ‘worth’ cooking for only themselves. But they are worth it, health is worth it, and these recipes can help with that. I hope that it helps provide the stimulus to start new, healthy habits.

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I have recently renewed an interest in cooking from scratch and exploring herbs, vegetables, fish, cheese and cuts of meat that I previously avoided because I didn’t know how to cook or use them – I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth so savoury main meal recipes appeal to me now and I’m finding it fun. Do you enjoy cooking? Have you got a favourite recipe that has been submitted to the book?

I love cooking, and I agree that the process of learning how to use food and basic ingredients can be a fun one. A few months ago I was travelling around Australia, and carrying around tins of tuna and noodles in my bag – typical backpacker food. I stayed in a lovely eco-friendly place where visitors were allowed to pick from the garden. The lemongrass, chilli and basil I picked from the trees transformed my bland dinner to an exciting stir fry. I also love the recipe for paella that a friend donated, telling me that he picked this one as it was ‘what I saw my dad do every Sunday from June to September. Always in the same place, slow, focussed, constantly assessing the water, the salt, the rice, cooking for the family that he built and loved. Paella is a social event, a family event, an excuse to be together….and my dad made a cracking succulent excuse!’ The importance of the emotional and social aspect of a good meal resonated with me.

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The money raised from sales of the recipe book are going towards BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity. What are the aims of the charity?

BEAT provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders. They campaign, raise awareness, organise events and offer support to change the way everyone thinks and talks about eating disorders, improve the way services and treatment are provided, and to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten. 40-50% of people make a full recovery, and BEAT are one of many resources that can help recovery be a reality.

You have gathered recipes from a variety of people and sources. What has been the most unusual dish submitted?What type of recipe was the most popular submitted?

I’ve had a great number of people submit recipes, and vegetable chilli has been a repeat submission. Which is good, because it’s tasty, and can be made in lots of different ways. A breakfast salad that includes avocado, alfafa, coconut and carob was a surprise entry, and I’m looking forward to people trying the Maltese recipe for hobz biz-zejt, as that is filled with wonderful memories for me.

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Have you plans to do more projects/ books in the future?

I’d like to develop this one to include an app – so if any developers out there fancy getting in touch that would be great?!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I’m a total words girl, and always seek out a library when I arrive in a new place. This has been the case since I was a child, and would visit the library on a Saturday and have devoured all the books I borrowed by Monday. I love Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence, and grew up absorbed in Enid Blyton. Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Joe Dunthorne are contemporary writers I adore. And of course, Shakespeare.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I like all sorts of styles and trends, but I tend to feel the cold, so my outfits are made up of layers, cardigans and scarves. I love a bright and beautiful pattern, and pick up scarves from charity shops that catch my eye. Every year I make the New Year’s Resolution to wear more heels, but it rarely transpires. I have a fantastic pair of very high purple suede stilettos that live on my mantel piece – they are too hard to walk in but too beautiful to be hidden away in the wardrobe!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I spend too much time on Bookish and The Literary Gift Company.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I saw this gorgeous skirt by Dawn O’Porter in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines a few months ago and fell in love with it. Pretty skirts and powerful quotes! 

Boots or Shoes? 

Perhaps boots – for their practicality. It’s definitely boots I wear the most often. I can walk, dance, skip and kick in them!

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Recipes For Recovery:

www.andsoshethinks.co.uk
http://recipesforrecovery.flavors.me/
https://twitter.com/hashtag/recipesforrecovery
https://twitter.com/andsoshethinks

Thanks for talking to us Francesca and I hope the book encourages us all to enjoy cooking, eating food and discovering new flavours.  Have you got a favourite recipe? I’d love to hear what you like cooking.

Linda x

Photo Credits:  The photo of Francesca was published with kind permission from Francesca Baker.  The food photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Richard Betts

When the sun is shining what could be better than sitting outside lapping up the glorious rays, with a glass of wine by your side (pinot grigio preferably but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at whatever flavour is offered!) and a good book.  Yes –  wine, sunshine and books come up very high on my list of passions.  Imagine my excitement at discovering a book – not just any book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”.  Scratch’n’sniff books … I can remember having a couple as a child where you could scratch the picture of a strawberry or an orange and a most delicious scent was emitted. Probably showing my age! I had a chat with the enterprising American author and winemaker Richard Betts to find out more…hi Richard, please introduce yourself 🙂image

No way. Okay, my name is Richard. My most lofty ambition is to smile and to make other people smile. I endeavor to do that by making wine and spirits easy and part of your every day life. See, I’ve got this ‘-ism’ that “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” and if I have my way you will live by it too.

Believe me… I agree with that “ism” too! I’m going to jump in straight away & talk about your book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”. I used to love the scratch & sniff books as a child ..and I’ve approached this book with as much glee! What was the inspiration behind the writing of this book?

Whelp, there is for sure no shortage of lengthy wine tomes on all subjects and I have nothing to add to that. BUT! Wine can sometimes be too stuffy and exclusive which stinks. I think the best way to engage and welcome is to knock wine off the pedestal, make it easy and make it fun and what better way to do that than with a Scratch and Sniff wine book?!

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When did you first discover the delights of wine and the realisation that you wanted to become a wine expert?

Living in Italy in the 90’s. I was totally blowing off my academic life and instead just living life – learning to speak Italian, to cook, to eat – and wine was an inseparable part of this. The table is not set until there is wine upon it and this matters.

In 2003 you passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, being the ninth person ever to do so – congratulations! So you do know your wine! What was the hardest thing about the exam did you feel and what do you think is the stumbling block that makes it very hard to pass the exam at first attempt?

The hardest part is for sure the tasting. Service and theory are more in your control because they are studied and you either know it or don’t. Tasting is different as we are different people every day. You know, we all have good and bad days and when you get one chance at taking the test you’re not really allowed to have a bad day, right? So the key is figuring out what are the ingredients that best set you up to have a great day and then making sure you heap them on when it’s time to perform. (For me that includes exercise, loud music and a beer.)

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Tell us a bit about My Essential Wine and your “as a grocery & not a luxury” ethos.

My ethos of “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” was born out of that time when I was living in Italy and there was always wine on the table, at lunch, at dinner, without fail. It’s just a part of the whole. (Smart.) After selling my first wine project, Betts and Scholl, I wanted to start another project that really made good on my -ism/ethos and, thus, My Essential Wines. The idea is you’ve got twelve bucks in your pocket on a Tuesday and I’m your date! It’s that easy. The wines themselves (we make rosé and red) are also wines I love to drink because, after all, if you don’t drink them I have to and I’m prepared to do that so I might as well make what I like.

You are a fan of Bordeaux wine and having holidayed in that region of France for many years I, too, share your enthusiasm. What’s the origin behind the name of your Bordeaux wine, Saint Glinglin?

It too is an -ism, a French -ism for “When Pigs Fly” and it became the name of the wine when I told good friend Erin Chave that I was going to make great Bordeaux and make it cheap to which she replied…. 🙂

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You are currently touring the USA promoting your book, drinking and sharing wine. I am sure you are having a whale of a time! What do you enjoy most about being on tour? Any funny tales you can relate to us about life on tour?

Well, my girlfriend and I gave up our homes, flew to Miami, bought a car and called it home for 4 months. It was amazing – we drove all over this beautiful country and met the most amazing people. As a guy that flies so much, it was wonderful to slow down and actually take in what you’ve been flying over – I treasure the experience and hope to repeat it when we release The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All this coming fall.

What is (are) your absolute favourite wine(s)?

Any wine that tastes like a place. This is key, it’s the intellectual value of wine that can transport you around the world. It’s sometimes called terroir – a French term meant to describe everything that goes into the wine, that informs it and is specific to only that place in the world from whence it has come.

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Travelling to visit different countries and their vineyards – which place surprised you the most with its wine? which place have you got a soft spot for? which place would you love to visit and sample its wares?

Surprised, always, by Australia – there simultaneously exists a ton of tradition and a ton of innovation. It’s always better and always interesting. This, of course, makes it a favorite of mine too. I’ve also got a soft spot for the whole of France as well as Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli in Italy. Oh wait, I have to also add Sherry in southern Spain – I have never been more amazed at a wine region and it’s wines. Very little has changed in forever and the wines are magic – for sure the best food wines on earth.

Your book is the perfect gift for a wine enthusiast! Is it available to purchase outside the USA?

Yes and I have no real idea how. I was recently passing through Vienna airport and there was a huge stack of them for sale. Which was cool 🙂

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Nice Jeans like Simon Miller or Raleigh Denim. Vans, flip flops (favorite) or boots. I have a really beautiful pair I bought 10 years ago in France that are still the most perfect pair ever. And t-shirts. Easy.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Raleigh Denim Workshop and Simon Miller are both really special. In Rome, I love Strategic Business Unit and in Paris, it’s always Merci.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Just ordered some stuff from Entree LS in Brooklyn, we’ll see how it is. Thinking Spring so always fresh sneaks too. Lots of them.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots or hi-tops – they’re just comfy like a warm hug.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and Essential Wine

www.myessentialwine.com is where we do wine things, I also make mezcal in Oaxaca,Mexico and you can check that here: www.sombraoaxaca.com AND we have something super duper top secret and very small happening in the way of a single new wine I’ve been working on for more than 10 years. Best to follow along via @yobetts on twitter/instagram/fb to catch the announcement very soon.

As the sun beams down on my part of the UK this Friday evening, I raise a glass to you Richard for chatting to us! I wish you continued success & look forward to sampling your new wines… Readers, have you got a fave wine? What “scratch & sniff” book would appeal to you? I’d love to know what you think!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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An Interview With Author Liat Hughes Joshi

Parenting – Traditional or Modern – which method is best when bringing up your offspring?  It is an age old argument amongst different generations that their methods are best.  Despite having 5 children of my own, who are currently aged 24 down to the youngest at just 8; each birth was accompanied by different sets of recommendations. Take weaning for example: with my eldest it was recommended to start weaning at 3 months …. by the time my youngest was born it was frowned upon any earlier than 6 months!  My personal opinion is to find a happy medium between the two styles that you and your offspring feel comfortable with ….and that’s why I was so excited to chat to this week’s guest on my blog, Liat Hughes Joshi, author of “New Old Fashioned Parenting” – a guide to help you find that balance between traditional and modern parenting. A big warm welcome, Liat….image

Hi! I’m a writer and journalist from London but originally from Lancashire. I specialise in writing about parenting and family life, with clients including national newspapers, parenting magazines and websites. I’ve also popped up on TV and the radio providing comments about parenting matters.

Your 3rd book on parenting, published on 12th February 2015, is the “New Old-Fashioned Parenting” – a guide to help parents find the balance between traditional and modern parenting.What inspired you to write this guide?

There were a few incidents that particularly crystallised my thoughts on just how very child-centred and over-indulgent SOME parents can be these days and the contrast with when most of today’s parents were kids in the 70s to early 90s. One time, I was in a coffee shop waiting to come out and two toddlers were playing by the door in the way. I waited patiently, not wanting to spoil their fun too soon, but then waited and waited some more. It was very obvious I wanted to leave and they were blocking my way. The parents were right next to them and definitely saw me but didn’t say “guys move out of the way for the lady” or similar. They carried on and on and there was just none of the consideration for others that surely should be there. A few days later, I was in a busy train station and whilst the children I was with were sat down happily, those from the adjacent table’s group were hurtling round getting in everyone’s way. Again, the adults they were with made no effort to get them to stop. When did we end up with such low expectations of kids’ behaviour? They can still have lots of fun but be considerate when needs be.

imageWhat are the main themes in the book?

It works on two levels, I hope. On one, more general level it’s about taking a step back and asking ourselves what’s really best for our children. Parents are bombarded with all sorts of messages about how to bring their children up nowadays and I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that more than anything we’re here to prepare them to be happy, well-functioning adults. Of course we want them to be happy along the way too, but sometimes the right thing for the long term doesn’t always make them content now. I’m definitely not suggesting making anyone unhappy for the sake of it just that sometimes as a parent you have to take a hit for the long term and do something they’d rather you didn’t. On a day-to-day basis though, there’s also lots of practical advice on everything from getting them to do more chores to preventing fussy eating, how to get the right level of involvement in their education and looking at issues of screen time and them growing up too fast.That’s the paradoxical side of modern childhood – on the one hand, we’re wrapping them up in cotton wool and not letting them have much freedom, but on the other we’re pushing them academically harder than perhaps ever and they’re growing up faster than we all did too thanks to media and commercial influences. This is one of the dilemmas I hope the book helps parents with.

Having 5 children of my own that span from the ages of 8 to 24 (!) I have encountered many idea changes on parenting. You have, like me, a 9 year old son – what parenting issue(s) do you find most frustrating when it comes to conflicting advice?

Wow you must be busy.. I’m one of four in my family and it was pretty hectic, although the age gap wasn’t so wide. I think all the child health advice is probably the most confusing because it changes all the time and then you just end up feeling guilty about something you’ve done/ fed them.

imageYou have written other parenting books – “Raising Children – The Primary Years” and “What to Buy For Your Baby” – as well as being columnist & feature writer for AOL’s parenting website (www.parentdish.co.uk). Have you always wanted to have a career in writing?

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine year as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.

You’re also a judge in the Annual Slow Toy Awards, launched at Selfridges in 2012, Harrods in 2013 and John Lewis in 2014. What toy(s) have you personally been most impressed with over the last 3 years?

This year’s big find from Slow Toys for me was this cool magnetic wooden block toy called Tegu. It’s been a pleasure to be part of it. It’s been interesting to see the awards evolve since 2012 and the entries and shortlist have got so strong – there were some brilliant toys entered this year. Outside of Slow Toys, LEGO is timeless and never fails to impress – I’m often going on about it but it’s the basic piles of bricks and people I’m into rather than prescribed models as they tend to get made and then what does a child do with them? They might play with them a bit or rebuild them once or twice but it’s much less imaginative.

imageYou are currently writing another book, due for publishing in May 2015, called “How To Unplug Your Child”. Can you tell us a bit more about that book?

It’s very simply 101 ideas to get children of all ages away from screens more. There are other kids’ activity books out there but this has the digital generation in mind and toddlers to teens, whereas most of the existing ones focus on the younger end. I’ve tried to have something to suit all kids in there too as a lot of the book’s competitors have a focus on arty and crafty activities. I have a deeply un-arty son myself so know it’s not everyone’s thing. Overall I don’t think we should fight screens altogether though as they can be brilliant in lots of ways and are part of our lives now – these are just ideas to get them away more rather than something preachy about getting them to give up gadgets altogether. It’s about sensible use rather than panicking that it’s all bad.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

My Kindle is loaded with contemporary fiction (I was really anti- e-readers at first but absolutely love it now). A favourite read of recent years was The Hundred-Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Utterly charming and very funny and I kept buying copies for people I know. (That’s one of my favourite books too, Liat)  

What was the best piece of parenting advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?

It’s a Mumsnet thing: “this too shall pass”. As in most of the stuff we stress about when they are babies and toddlers will be a short-lived problem. And believe me I did do lots of stressing when my son was a baby (why thank you colic!) The worst was simply the ‘thou shalt breastfeed no matter what’ pressure when my son was born. Of course evidence shows that it’s better wherever possible but that pressure can go too far and make you feel guilty about something that circumstances, health and the like sometimes get in the way of no matter how much you want it to work out.

A little bird told me that you are passionate about tennis – have you ever been tempted to write about tennis or do you play purely to rewind?

I don’t really understand enough about the professional game to write about the circuit and pros – I prefer to just play – but I have done a few features about tennis holidays/ resorts and used to edit the travel pages of a tennis magazine. It was not exactly hard work doing the testing of all these amazing resorts! A dream job for me in fact.

imagePersonal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am stuck in a fashion rut and this has got worse since we got a puppy this last year.. I throw on skinny jeans, a longish top and then boots before dashing down to let him out in the morning and it all needs to be suitable for walking the dog (I.e. getting covered in mud). I’m still determined not to be become a ‘frumpy dog lady’ so am trying to keep a vague element of style to it all with a bit of luxe knitwear and nice scarves at the moment.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I’m pretty boring – high street stores such as Gap and John Lewis (especially John Lewis, I do love it) do me fine. If I won the lottery (which would be especially lucky given I don’t actually bother playing it), I might head to Paul Smith or Nicole Fahri more but really I’m happy with high street so wouldn’t change that.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Things that get me out of this jeans/ long tops rut. I’ve got a personal styling session booked with a fashion writer colleague turned stylist called Jo Payton soon and I’m hoping she will push my boundaries! And I so need a new pair of specs. They are kind of a trademark of mine but I have had these ones too long.

Boots or Shoes?

Wellington boots for the dog walking. Otherwise heels but ones I can walk in easily as I am short so need a height boost.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your books.

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter at @liathughesjoshi.
The books should be hitting bookshops with savvy buyers soon and are available on Amazon and Waterstones websites for pre-order before publication:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Old-Fashioned-Parenting-Balance-Traditional/dp/1849536724/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1407160295&sr=8-4&keywords=liat+hughes+joshi

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unplug-Your-Child-Gadgets/dp/1849537194/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420580462&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+unplug+your+child

It has been smashing chatting to you Liat and I wish you much success with your books.  So, dear readers, what aspects of parenting or parenting ideas do you find bemusing?! Do share your views, I’ll love to know…

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Liat Hughes Joshi

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